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tv   Book Discussion  CSPAN  August 31, 2014 8:00pm-8:51pm EDT

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so i'm going to steal the line of my friend. she blessed to reading i went to said it's just so exciting to not have to read a book upside down which is what we always have to do. so i am going to just start by reading the opening of the book. the budget in the solidarity movement -- after getting through a try tried to get the
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viewers to stick through other commercials through the final segment in the defeat of measure. the story appeared a few minutes before 7:00 and was introduced by dan rather who replaced turk on tight to the year before. other countries have done it for years but in this country the conversion of the metric system system didn't draw many and only inched along rather said. he has more on what it takes to kill the meter. after a lot of who plot the tax dollars spent to tell us why we needed to go match rick is a metric system that is about to go a new victim of the ronald reagan budget cut back. but he wasn't talking about the metric system. but he did is be founded something called the u.s. metric board the lady that was playing one of those earlier.
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they interviewed a few folks about these issues including these two who are arch enemies of the match rick system. tom wolfe was working on vanities but his big success after that point had been the right stuff about astronauts so he got on and was noting that they managed to go to the moon so they certainly did need the metric system and decided that the whole metric system is to blame on intellectuals and those people who believe things were done better in europe and bristol the most obedient when it comes to things intellectual. the other guy had actually introduced and had been briefly one of the pranksters but he had gone on to find the catalog which in his commencement speech
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steve jobs called 35 years before google came around. he was mostly well against anything that was being pushed onto the world by global capitalism that he felt the metric system was doing. he also believed really deeply into contact that measures came from the human body and that there was something important in that. now a defeated measure air on my 12th birthday february 1982. my wife had basically been coincident with america's move towards a much rick system. when i was still in the credit card the national bureau of scientist standards report cannot said it was time for america to go match rick and that should happen within ten years. in 1975, gerald ford signed it into law with the match rick act
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in which he said we had finals to go to to achieve what we were looking for and then when i turned 12, the board was told. i have very scattered memories. i remember this blue plastic ruler that have metric measures and we were not supposed to do anything else we didn't have to learn those. i also had this activity book. now i basically loved anything to do with superheroes and it's pretty amazing that this book was even too boring for me to want to do and it was by this guy who was also famous for doing a comic book called the great society with lbj. he also did what was it called another one that i think was super bob and ted batman and
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robin saving the world from conservatives see a black-and-white view from deception against batman. to get to what stewart was talking about and was one of the main guys that was a huge roadblock to that actually happening he was obsessed with body measures. by the way i did not do this chart. we all know what is the most obvious. i also grew up in the forest business. -- horse business. it's easy to go this way.
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the spanish ego from the tip of your thumb to your pinky or one of the other ones, the actual turn comes from that. as does the fat from to have your arms spread wide apart and happening something comes from taking up those measures when you wind your anchors broke around. it's the one everyone is measured in the ark. it was also carried from islam all the way to indonesia and survives there as well as the main measure. when they get their mind into the idea that it's all about replacing the foot and the pound and everything else but it doesn't have much to do with that it has to do with the decimal fractions into the way that it's dividing stuff. i reasoned that the metric
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system was needed in the first place was that the decimals actually are not such a great way to divide things. it's actually not very easy. it's easy to do and four, six, eight. they are excellent for tallying to have a working tally but they are not good for fractions. one thing that blew me away when i was researching is that of the decimal fraction had to be invented and it was invented a few times but it only cost on when this guy and printed it. i'm sure you all have your french inventors trading cards in the attic somewhere.
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when he was still in school he wrote a little pamphlet that a basic land traduced the fraction the mathematicians started to use it and in the 18th century they had caught on among the educated folks. some of the folks that were into the idea were these guys and governor morris they were involved in the creation of the dollar and was the first measure that was ever put forward by a country. but until that point everything
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was divided into chile into paths and quarters especially everything the roman empire did. the shellings were 20 of the pound and that came from charlemagne. so they had this idea that the new country had to have a revolutionary system of measurement to go along with the revolutionary idea. so they cannot put this. the first claim ever minted and you can see the spelling committee original spelling and the change until about 100 years later. thomas jefferson didn't want us out there he came up with an entire decimal system washington charged with coming up with a system of american measurement and didn't really give or take
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us in any way but he came up with the first comprehensive system of the decimal measure and that was ever proposed to the government. it obviously didn't work. but the reason it didn't work as they told congress that they shouldn't vote on it because it is a better system coming. there was another system coming from france. during the revolution, the french came up with a thoroughly radical version of every system of measurement. they not only decimal lies to the length and weight and volume but also the calendar, the thermometer and the clock which didn't catch on although some of the people did convert into the clocks at home they were
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actually put on the public spaces. the whole reign of terror thing didn't really go well in the anglo-saxon countries and it wasn't very popular to be saying we should go match rick at this time so jefferson had his own problems he thought that it was too french. [laughter] >> this guy however managed to spread the nature calendar that had ten day weeks all across the parts of europe that he conquered and he started the first decimal currency to be in europe outside of the u.s. ended up it with the bureaucrats they were sending around but he didn't go well with the people. here's one of the reasons. this stuff was handed out to try
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to explain what the metric system was. it's one thing to try to explain how to put together an ikea bookshelf with visuals but it's not easy to explain the measurement system. they were literate meaning they didn't know how to use numbers. they literally used things like this. the tally sticks this was at the time of the revolution still in use by the british ex- tracker. they would divide a shtick and they would give one to the person that had the positive money and they would keep the other end of it is literally that is literally how they kept track of the records. so, the idea of keeping track of
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-- the idea of people trying to figure out how to use the metric system was almost impossible. it was something called the l. switch with a measure of cloth. one of the main things people would divide. the way they were used to doing it was basically if you hold a piece of cloth from here to here that was replaced by the meter. what was difficult, however, is the the way that people would ask for something. they would be like can i have an eighth of an al comes with the score keeper but for the cloth at once and they would cut it and that was the idea. that was then replaced by .125 meters. so does tend plus 200 plus 5,000 so where they were supposed to make the currency everybody
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actually just made it available only to people who were truly well-educated. >> john quincy adams. what happened basically is when napoleon went down, they were restored all over europe and the metric system went away along with any kind of revolutionary values. it was very sad for john quincy adam's who had the biggest crush on the metric system of anyone. he was the ambassador when napoleon came running in and he had called it the greatest dimension since the printing press. when he returned to be the secretary of state, he liked jefferson was charged with trying to come up with a system of measures. america never stop trying to figure out what kind of system of measurement there would be and they kept asking we need a system of measurement and he was
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a big fan of decimals. thomas jefferson was a carriage odometer install those divided into dimes and mills and it had a little china that went off. he said good luck i hope you do better than i do. adams wrote out while he was the secretary of state for this considered the greatest work ever written about measurement. there was one reason he couldn't recommend it if it is because basically it wasn't being used anywhere. that changed though with another wave of the revolution. this was the most famous image of the revolution, french revolution. 1789 congress was 1830 revolution and there was a wave
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of nostalgia at the basically swept across not only for land friends that also places that have touched the revolution like italy and belgium. they started to bring back all kinds of stuff such as the tricolor into the metric system so the metric system first came back in belgium and then france and then the mid-1830s. it was again hated by almost all people until about ten years to start showing up on the market and started being used. but the people that were into it became zealous about it. this is alexander. he was the biggest star in the world in the first half of the 19th century. he was a ventral quest. he had been in medical school and got kicked out because he would throw voices onto cadavers. he then went to london, made his fortune and returned to france
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and made cultural exchange his life's work so there were petitions in congress, he organized the first exchange and the metric standards. and he was a part of something called the international association. so we are talking about the 1850s and the metric system has spread to these kind of laughing countries into the sort of quarter but they haven't gone any further than that. most people didn't think it was going to go any further than that. germany was at the time of the french revolution something like a thousand little stays. if you see the different colors this is when things were starting to get a little bit more clarified.
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they were not even continuous. it was the nation that germany formed around. the problem with everybody else else's they didn't want to become all prussians of those parts of the empire that had once been a french wanted to keep them. so when germany said okay we will accept the need for but they would not accept the french. now let me go on to the next he
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also was the guy that created lexington avenue. the guy over there is the french emperor. they were basically in the 1860s leading proponents of turning the frank into completely international money. the amazing thing to me $5.25 francs in 1868. this is the token of appreciation that napoleon gave to spread back in america. the treasury secretary said america was going to accept the frank and it was something that people were going to have happened there was a big backlash in the congress about it and it never happened. but what also happened was germany decided to go with the
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meter and they wound up going to the mark. it's going to be called the europa in distorted the gold standard. he wasn't done yet. he still wanted america to have a better system appointed and so did a lot of other people and so the first nickel appeared in 1866 and it weighed exactly 5 grams which was the holy grail of pointed to the reformers that wouldn't go. it was exactly 2 centimeters across so you could measure if
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you put five nickels out you would defend have the metric and if you put three of them on the scale it would be it would match the lead of limit of the new postal standards and the way that it was matched was going to be the price anywhere in the world. so this was the system put in the pocket of every american and considered hugely important. it wound up being not that important to. it really started happening after the war. charles sumner, frederick and the last guy over there was no bill and he was one of my favorite people that i researched. he had library records of the metric system and to provide
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spelling. he legally changed his last name to be spelled dui. he based the decimal system more or less on the metric system. he called if the american metric metric to be rude of us kind of a propaganda on the 1860s and 70s and frederick was the natural logical society that was more of a high-minded group that was pushing not just the trick system but the reform of the clock and the calendar in and the currency the biggest was the success creating standard time time and the concept of the time zone which quickly spread all over the world. this map gives you some idea of how messed up the clock was before time zones. if you if you are leaving the train in philadelphia, you would have to figure out okay it is noon in philadelphia.
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i'm going to indianapolis where it is now a weapon:18 and he would have to change your watch to eat within:18 and then in indianapolis indianapolis we would have to figure out the next connection that is maybe in louisville or luckily enough -- that was their big success. the big daily or with the metric system. part of it is that the country wasn't ready for it and it was also an amazing propaganda campaigning against them that was built on the work of a guy named charles smith. smith was one of the great astronomers of today. he would get completely obsessed with things. one must agree to peer amid which he did the first great archaeological dig and his drawings and sketches and everything else were wonderfully
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imprecise. he leaves he had found there was an image that was handed down because they had built the great pyramid because the egyptians couldn't have possibly done it. it was exactly 25 inches long which meant it was survived through the british and now that should actually be spread around the world. it was a little bit more scientific than that, but it's hard not really. the truly amazing thing is how many proponents there were not only in britain but there were also astronomers have transcend belgium that thought it was a pretty good idea. there were also some really great followers in the states people who for instance wanted to did back the statue of liberty because they had been built in the millimeters and centimeters.
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the story didn't end there. to the 1920s the metric system was constantly before congress. basically every year there were bills being performed and one passed in the 1890s and was drawn back. people like alexander graham bell. but the push and pull never quite happened. also america was getting stronger and stronger and the argument that we were behind the rest of the world and we need to remain completely hollow. one reform however that was going a lot further along was a movement to change the calendar to have 13 months that were all 28 days. they were all kind of considered wasted days. it was an incredible amount of
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money in the idea of moving to the more rational calendar. for years there was a bill put before the congress said the new calendar should read january, february, burned, march being the equinox. some people had a better idea. it was later going to be called soul. the amazing thing is that it was taken up by the league of nations. and then you can see the calendar was the same every month. it was so perfect any clock could run it. there were various conferences being held over it. two things tanked it. one of them was that the competing system came up. he was the one interested
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interested with a lot of americans in it. he has been basically chasing those dreams for about 40 or 50 years. in the late 20s it looks like his system was going to go forward. at and event hosted by melville dewey who was a heard about this scheme and it makes no sense and she found out that there was a different scheme that was much more regular regular that was good to break the year into quarters and make the month for regular and she put basically her fortune into coming up with an alternative system that she called the calendar and wound up happening is that when the league of nations basically had all she managed to create a kind of wedge. the other thing that happened as the great depression.
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all of the measurement reform at that point stopped. the metric system that had been in the public eye since the 1860s suddenly completely vanished places like japan that were looking to the metric totally stopped. the idea becoming over latin america, finland, russia had been using it was all completely over. america after world war ii there was the fault of actually being fewer in the american units were going to become more popular because hitler was nothing so much as, well it was all metric and all of those getting help were getting equipment and everything else sized in the imperial or u.s. units. but after world war ii, when colonialism broke apart, that is when the metric system actually jumped forward and it finally looks like it was going to overtake the english measures. again, america was totally oblivious to any of this going on until sputnik.
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when the russians had just gotten the atomic bomb and they beat us to having rockets, while satellites people believed there would be atomic bomb is being dropped from the satellites and it was like we are going to get on the mac. map. the kids need to become engineers. kids at that point were pretty well tortured in the third or fourth grade every conceivable algebra taught in school but people also started looking at the metric system. the head of the finance committee said what is this matrix system nobody had ever seen, heard or talked about the metric system in about 35 years. in the late 60s, literature started to appear like this guy.
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frank donovan -- i love the constructive cover and the threatening him. if of it. let me see if i can find some of the things frank donovan wrote about. his name thing was that the communists were already using it to their advantage. he quoted the nobel prize-winning chemist: the metric system and the secret weapon of communism. all said change is inevitable
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and donovan thought that was fine. the estimated price tag was also totally fine. he also belief that one reason that americans who accept the system into place and measure is that they do not know that a better system exists. ..
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>> >> it was the first time in plastic also we have seen propaganda and think metrics it was the days of the bathing beauty babes. but then for a moment while i find it some more. william s. burroughs and
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john michelle with his british miss dick who took the rolling stones to stonehenge to look for a flying saucer. and one said things like metric is definitely communist one it measuring system one world all communist. 160 acres not one heck baker. quickly going to the textbook that had riding of kilometers across the west but the number one metric was the guy who made these. his name there he was
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something he put together that was called the football. who was that the marine terminal was. its was covered by "the new yorker", people, it did have did basically 1981 before the metric system was taken. without a whole movement wasn't people that were for the metric system at the time but those that had the less good argument it seemed like those to prodigy is to the movement were guys like us. so really chose the metric movement was stuff like
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this. it was not a good time in the country i will not take it anymore and take this job and shove it was number one on the charts when carter was elected we would say we had to eat our spinach and be strong to go down the tubes and change it. in then to look to itself we do a lot of things right. whether that is right or wrong symmetric totally disappeared. so in popular culture was miami vice talking about cocaine and i will someone
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at the end it on that. why not? this is of poor guy that was the head of the metric smarter movement and he refused to sell his bananas by the kilogram and was arrested on the fourth of july 2000. and he became this smarter figure. -- a martyred figure. and one of the things i found it if you don't look that measure is actually in the supermarket because that is the place you see that's america is not.
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with the cars that read driver of metric whenever we do is all metric. if we just want to way or measure ourselves in old units the road signs to be miles and things we understand. where people are the most confused but will lead to buy our staples with 16 ounces of flour or sugar but it messes up with the drinks. so before i finish that anybody have any q&a for that?
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>> what are the philosophical reasons for using the metric system? rather than nationalistic reasons? >> with so hall of famer was nationalistic. they were divided between different things even the football guy who came from a family of architects. there isn't any decimals and that. but to be dead set against the metric system, other people there was the idea as to be a part of the culture is where i stand.
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there is no reasoning to changeover the metric most of us have smart phones and we can speak what is 16 ounces and 2 grams and it pops up. but for me we want to keep languages we don't want them to die out why do we want the language of measurement to die out? we also have the idea that we tended to be smarter if we only learn the metric system but little think any nobel prize winners have said the customary units will fail because of it and when is learning more a bad thing? i am pearl metric but i also think that we should keep it all. but i do think however that one place we really could use the metric system is
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with our liquids. one fascinating thing of and measurement is called a roller. it is a really old system of measurement survived by a couple of wyoming growers who restarted it. it is half a gallon filled with four planes. but what i think the growler speaks to is that canada of the u.s.. but the reason the plaintiff is tended to be used it seems like it is a more honest type of measurement even tom and jerry's seems
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hope -- homespun they use pine toward a scream it sounds like something that comes off of the form. almost all of the dairy is solely in customary measures the when you realize it is still ingrained in people's minds that they buy in all whole unit not just 14 ounces but a plane or a court or a half gallon if it is just something like 14 ounces or 4.6 milliliters we don't pay attention to it >> what happened to the growler? [laughter] >> i'll like this is
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approximately only. >> this just says centimeters on it now we know why there is a ruler on top of a ruler? any questions? >> one thing that i think about the metric system is it has a name and customary measures is the first time i ever heard a name. [laughter] >> it is awful we don't have any good name to our system. people often say i know people when reviewing my book have not read it when they call it art material measures because at link we don't. material measures i think it
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is 200 ounces brought 16 it is a different kind of an ounce if you have ever been in a pub in england and you're getting drunkard than you think because it is tender 15% more boos. -- alcohol. >> why is alcohol in leaders? >> most metric thinking state in the union was california. the metric system got farther in the '70s. winegrowers also wanted to export more at that time the wine industry was purely serving the u.s. they wanted to embrace wider so they pushed for the of booze to
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go metric wine used to confess it was one-fifth of a gallon. it was changed over then after wine about one year then all hard liquor also came along. it was pretty much the only successful thing. interestingly the leader ian did to liter bottles turn plastic people are not used to that. that was a huge success with coca-cola really the only voluntarily public measure that succeeded. one thing that is interesting is i may not be the only person that when you go to a supermarket and look at what people are selling, you have a cheap
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soda with the high fructose corn syrup in the two leader bottles of you have fine arts is a also but it comes in a customary measures of fluid ounces. the opposite is true for water. we have this idea of the fancy name brand of water really good water comes from europe's almost all of that is in the leader even poland spring. >> considering of latin mass said did several times today measure now in customary? >> yes. the mars orbiter disaster i think hundreds of millions of dollars was a weather
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satellite that went to mars. the mistake was the software was using customary movements and it was somehow reversed but it created a divide because it was just a stupid error that could have been in any other brilliant things that had to have been. and the system of international the organization that basically controls the metric system and they all they want it to be the exact approved measures were others including teachers mike s.i.
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but they think the jelly doughnut or light years should be an acceptable because that is something that people can understand how much energy is in a jelly doughnut? even with science there is a little divide but i do think anybody legitimately thought that nasa should be using the metric system in fact, tom wolfe was totally wrong everybody wanted to use the metric system the only reason they were not it is most aeronautics were made by the aerospace industry and that was the one industry the u.s. was still dominating to the point they didn't have to buy all the other industries we're going metric but finally nasa said you have to go to metric units. >> has anybody done a recent
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cost-benefit analysis on conversion? >> no. it is interesting. there is something like 5,000 letters that came in scathingly angry about it and there was another attempt to put up more highway signs there was so much reaction but the amazing thing is the numbers for people wanting the metric system is at the same time it was just getting more metric. when clinton heavily pushed for the government to go totally metric that was behind the scenes. thank you for listening. [applause]
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[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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>> joining us now is the founder of a group called publishers lunch. speculating source of information and for all those in the publishing industry we have various other associated sites for those to buy or sell books. >> what is your history of publishing? >> i had my own company with the first internet bubble i realized people needed to find


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